As a fan of Shamus Young‘s earlier work, I was looking forward to his new book The Witch Watch, a story set in Victorian-era England with magic. In this alternate reality, the said arcane arts are forbidden by the British government and the church. An organization called the “Witch Watch” is tasked with keeping magic users in check. In an attempt to resurrect their dead master, a cult accidentally brings back the wrong guy–a man named Gilbert. In addition to being on the run from those hunting him (practically everyone), and coming to terms with being [un]dead, Gilbert finds he has to uncover a mysterious new threat to the land he calls home.
Compared to a lot of self-published books that can be found on the interwebz, The Witch Watch is a polished and solid piece of work that is worth your time. The story is pretty straightforward, but it goes in a few directions I wasn’t expecting. There was a twist which I was suspicious of, but wasn’t sure how it would play out (if it at all), but when actually it did, I was friggin’ delighted with the result. The author has taken the time to do research where appropriate to make the story and setting believable, and the way magic in the world works is fascinating. The Witch Watch is a well told adventure story with comedic elements sprinkled about.
The characters in the story are fun and interesting. There are a few odd times when Gilbert seems (I don’t know how to describe it other than) “meta,” as if it’s the author himself making certain observations about the narrative, but I don’t know if it’s just a perception formed by me due to reading the various story analyses on Shamus’s blog. You see this pop up in one or two other characters, but these moments are very few and quickly dissipate. I don’t know that I would call this a criticism, but as stated earlier, I found it just a little bit odd.
The book also has a few illustrations done by none other than Shamus Young’s wife, the style of which looks exceptionally appropriate to the time period of the story.
Overall, The Witch Watch comes highly recommended. But don’t just take my word for it, read a sample of the opening on Shamus’s blog yourself!